Thursday, 7 June 2012

Middle Mass - Friday Flash


Just along from the everlasting tyre fire, was the electronic goods dumpsite. That pyre of the First World's hard-wearing hardware effluvia, loaded on to container ships and transported here for disposal. It was said that the country formerly hosted the sole man-made object visible from space (which was itself a fiction). Well now the country possessed the lone edifice properly able to lay claim to such a boast. Only it preferred to make no mention of its existence at all. A skyscraper of other people's scrap, was not held to be a feat for reflecting glory on a nation.

The congeries consisted of computers, portable devices and hard drives, e-readers, games consoles and mobile phones amongst other erstwhile essentials of life. I-Pads and I-Pods stripped of their individualising utility and discarded so as now presenting the collective problem of global riddance. All were simply poured on top of the extant cloud-bursting mound of the previous year's designs, like sprinkles on an ice cream sundae. Future archaeologists would have had perfectly veined strata to sift through and timeline our annual obsolescence precisely.

The sheer weight of the material served to compact the already digitally compressed. Degrading under the fierce heat, it had effectively formed a silicon compost heap. And one that also leached beryllium, cadmium. lead, mercury and all manner of toxic polymers. A syrupy river oozed out at the foot of the stack and coated the feet of the scavenger-workers. None of whom wore protective clothing. Many of whom were too indigent to even have their feet shod.

For there were tiny riches to be gleaned from the decaying e-carrion. Gold and silver and other precious metals could be reclaimed from the entrails. These could be sold to the itinerant scrap metal merchants. A more personal trove were the letter buttons that broke loose from computer keyboards. For in the few daylight minutes snatched away for breaks, the salvagers would paint characters and symbols on to the individual keys as they constructed mah jong sets of 136 of such tablet tiles. They were the cyber-scrimshaws of the modern age.

However, most recyclers died before they could complete their mah jong sets. Irrespective of the long-term toxic assault, they were more immediately liable to surrender their lives when pulling at something within the teetering pillar, or burrowing further in toward the middle of the monolith. Such actions would cross the precarious tipping point and set off a instrumental avalanche fatally swallowing them up in its tumulus.

Children with their sparrowlike mass and prehensile limbs, were highly valued for scrambling up the scarp face. But often they dislodged even a tiny component and sent it cascading back down the slope. Either lethally picking off a fellow forager below them on the ziggurat, or hitting an adult stood at its foot squarely between the eyes and killing them stone dead.

Yet such culls scarcely thinned out the workforce of collectors. For continual waves of the impoverished arrived from inland as frequently as the ships docked at harbour. The fresh grizzle-faced workforce knew the location. The pilots of the monster ships were also navigating to the destination with surety. Yet the rest of the world were seemingly not in the know. The deaths went unreported, entombed in the secret location just like the original builders of the pyramids of the Pharaohs. The downtrodden continued to be trodden down by the weltering mass of the world's detritus. A detritus that interlarded flesh and bone with the plastic and metal alloys.

Meanwhile, out in the online world formerly served by the equipment currently littering terra firma on the other side of the planet, an even greater albeit virtual tower was accreting at a yet swifter pace. A dump site where an ever-accelerating rate of depositing was taking place and one which fiercely, if not venomously, compacted and compressed its neighbours within the unseen dark heart of the steepling megalith. A megalith become cenotaph for the unknown souls impressed and lost inside. The middle strata condemned to invisibility.

This tower was made up of words. Written on the ether. Typed straight on to the face of the void. Since the First World required so much of its electronic kit in order to extrude and present its words. Words which they didn't conceive of as evanescent. Yet still in the main they disappeared without trace, against all their producers' wishes. Pressed instantly back and eclipsed by the next electronic onrush of published or broadcast verbiage. Overwriting the overwritten. The words actually possessed two levels of insubstantial chimerical existence. Firstly that effaced amidst the supersaturation of the information superhighway. Falling through the gossamer mesh of the world wide web. Compacted and pressed beyond sight by the heel of search engine optimisation jackbooting it into touch. The second, still cached within the RAM of those units heaped up in the electronic waste sites unseen. Virtual, potential words, not even extant in the virtual world.

Those who wrote warnings and reproaches about the exploitation and terrible conditions suffered by the landfill families, themselves suffered compression and accidental suppression as their words were submerged in the tidal flow. Their vaporous outpourings joined the virtual airfill, though unlike that of its material cousin on the opposite side of the globe, you couldn't see this from space. Or anywhere. Virtual container vessels docked at virtual ports, loaded up with the refuse of airy compositions and set off for the information dumpsite that exists, well where exactly? The last and lost domain, that of the middle mass. Future archaeologists of the virtual world, would have no possible way of unravelling these compacted layers.



"Middle Mass" - The Fall  (The song doesn't really have anything to do with the story, other than it's title which stuck inside my head when starting out writing this tale).

12 comments:

Adam B said...

Such a prophetic vision of our future. Brilliant.
Adam B @revhappiness

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

"interlarded" - ooh, new word for me, thank you!
I can totally see this. and yeah, it probably is mostly garbage as well!

The geek in me has to point out that RAM cache is cleared on power-off ;-)
not that that might not change by the time we come to your story's time, of course!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Fascinating idea - brings to mind Wall-E. I love the idea of archaeologists mining the strata.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

I feel a little dirty typing a comment "straight on to the face of the void." Nice one.

tom gillespie said...

Superb and visionary take on the future.I love the final few lines.. "The last and lost domain, that of the middle mass. Future archaeologists of the virtual world, would have no possible way of unravelling these compacted layers." Brilliant.. Check out a similar yet different flash this week by Alison Wells..her tribute to Ray Bradbury.

Jen Brubacher said...

You've written an allegory for all of us here. I don't know if I can thank you for such a bleak vision, but it has certainly now caught in my imagination.

Jack Holt said...

Like Icy, I was thinking of Wall-E, too. Nice work, Marc.

Alison Wells said...

Prophetic look at the evils of proliferation. Squandered then scavenged. Bleak yes, but a necessary reminder of our constant folly.

Steve Green said...

A massively saddening ring of truth for the present, and a massively saddening prophecy for the future.

Awesome writing.

Cindy Vaskova said...

Virtual poetry, and one brilliantly written! A touch of the future so vivid it exploded in my mind and is bound to stay there and trouble me in my sleep.

Helen said...

Yes I had Wall-E in mind as I read this. A very cleverly written vision of the future.

Larry Kollar said...

Us older geeks call that virtual tower the "bit bucket." We joked about it overflowing and spilling, but what it if it actually happened? Those layers of words on the bottom, compressed and hardened, could spawn online horrors that not even Lovecraft could have imagined…